I’ve been in an automobile accident . . . NOW WHAT?
There are few things in life scarier than being involved in a motor vehicle accident. When you are injured in a car accident through no fault of your own, you may feel physically hurt, mentally confused, or emotionally anxious. Thinking about whether you have a personal injury case will likely be the last thing on your mind. But there are five important steps you need to take immediately when you are at the scene of the accident to ensure you protect your ability to be compensated for your injuries should you decide to do so.
The first thing you need to do if you are involved in an accident is get the police and EMTs to the scene. Once they arrive, you will likely be asked to give a statement by the police (which will be dealt with in #5). After getting information, the EMTs will check you for injuries and likely ask if you would like to ride the ambulance to the hospital. There is only one acceptable answer: YES! Just because you may not feel any pain in the moment, you need to understand that the adrenaline from being in an accident can often mask the pain. And if you do not go to the hospital when the accident occurs, but you go to the hospital later, you will likely be accused of only doing so for the money, even if you are legitimately injured! So take the inconvenient ride. It will be worth it in the end.
You will want to get the other driver’s license information, license plate number, and insurance card information. Most cases values are determined by insurance coverage. If you do not get their information at the scene, you may never get it. If the other person does not have insurance, then there are other ways to get compensated through your own underinsured or uninsured policies (make sure you have high policy limits – it’s worth the extra couple of dollars). But make sure you get this information, if they have it, either from the driver or from the police officer.
If you are able to do so, pull out your iPhone or other camera and take pictures of everything. Take a picture of your car. Take a picture of their car. Take a picture of the other driver. Take a picture of your injuries. Take a picture of any witnesses you see. Take a picture of the intersection, highway, or street. You get the point. Take pictures. Lots of pictures.
It is also important to talk to witnesses at the scene. If you are not physically able to do it, ask the police officers to interview witnesses before they leave. You will need an address and telephone number. If you end up in a trial with no independent witnesses, the case can turn into a “he said/she said” that makes determining the truth of the event more difficult. But if you can find an independent witness who says that you were not at fault, then that person will be a valuable witness for you.
Virginia is a contributory negligence state. That means a person who is injured in an accident cannot recover from the other driver if the injured person is even 1% at fault. So if you admit that you were in any way at fault, you cannot recover one cent. Even if you are in a comparative negligence state, where fault is divided among the parties, an admission makes the other parties’ job easier than it needs to be and may put you in a weaker settlement position. So do not make any admissions. As the old police shows say, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” This statement is true for civil cases as well. Anything you say can be used against you at trial. So make no admissions of fault.
Once you are safe, stable, and have put this information together, call Drew Page at Randall Page, P.C. As an experienced trial lawyer and professor of trial practice, Drew has the knowledge and experience to get the best result possible in your case. Call Drew at our Suffolk Office location or send an email to set up a free case evaluation.